Simply put, Barcelona is Spain’s wonder child. The capital of art, culture, architecture and cuisine, there is nothing that this vibrant and eclectic city doesn’t have to offer. Barcelona is also perfectly placed to use as a base from which to explore Spain’s eastern countryside. Perched in between the Mediterranean Sea and the stunning Pyrenees Mountains, the city is bursting with daytrip potential. While the city centre can be a hassle for independent drivers, the outskirts tend to be more forgiving.
Who to Book With
Most of the major international car rental companies, including Avis, Hertz, Budget, Sixt and Europcar, have a presence in the city. These companies have outlets at the airport, the central railway station Estació Sants and at several other points around the city centre. During peak seasons, booking a car is a popular option, so travellers are advised to pre-book online.
Best time to go
Barcelona is jam-packed with tourists at all times of the year, but peak season occurs in August, when the city experiences hot and sunny days. Prices of accommodation and car rentals soar during this period. September and October are not the best times for driving, as heavy rains tend to impede visibility.
Need to Know Essentials
Travellers need to be in possession of the following when collecting their car:
- A valid passport
- An international driving licence
- The credit card used when making the rental booking
- An international insurance policy (which can be obtain when hiring the car)
For more info read our FAQ's.
Driving in Barcelona is a popular way of navigating the city, but many travellers prefer to get around the centre by foot. While driving on the outskirts of the city is a breeze, made easier by the stellar quality of the city’s roads, the city centre can become a nightmare for vehicles. During peak hours especially, traffic and congestion are extreme.
Parking in the city can become quite tricky as few establishments offer parking, and, when they do, they usually require payment. In the city centre, there are several paid-for car parks. These can be recognised by the presence of blue markings and meters. Yellow markings signal no-parking zones. On average, drivers should expect to pay €3 per hour for a parking in the centre. A great way to avoid congestion and minimise parking fees is to use the Park and Ride option. Estacion de Nord bus terminal has a large parking lot and charges a reasonable daily rate, about €18. From here, travellers can take the metro to anywhere in the city.
Read more about general driving in our guide to Spain.
While the centre of Barcelona can generally be seen by foot, the outskirts are often best reached by public transport. Luckily for travellers, Barcelona boasts an impressively modern and efficient public transport system. Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona, or TMB, operates most of the transport in the city, including the metro and the local buses.
The most popular mode of transport in the city, with both travellers and locals, is the metro system. Tickets can be bought from any of the stations, with a single ticket amounting to €1.40. Another option is to use the local railway, FGC, which travels to destinations on the outskirts of the city. FGC trains operate on a similar schedule to the metro and are just as efficient. Such daytrips to Pedralbes and Tibidabo can, however, also be made with a rental car.
Metered taxis run to several locations around the city and can simply be hailed from the side of the road. Travellers will recognise these registered taxis as the yellow and black vehicles with illuminated taxi signs. Taxis charge a fixed starting fee of €1.75, after which the metre takes over at about €0.75 per kilometre. Alternatively, you can also book a taxi in advance of your trip. Reputable companies include Servitaxi and Fono Taxi.
Travellers have the choice of the TMB-run extensive bus network, used frequently by locals, or the Barcelona Bus Turistic, which carries passengers to only the main tourist landmarks. The Barcelona Bus Turistic offers two-hour tours on a double decker bus. The local line runs to locations all over the city, but most run through Placa de la Universitat and Placa de Catalunya. Buses arrive at stops along the routes every five minutes or so.
Many of Barcelona’s best-known sites are located within the city centre and can be seen either on a walking tour or by utilising one of the city’s many reliable public transport systems. The outskirts of the city, however, are also home to many underappreciated sites, including a few museums and monasteries. These areas, like Gerano and Figueres, can be easily reached by road.
The Dali Theatre and Museum in Figueres - Dedicated to the life and work of the artist himself, this is one of the most famous museums in the country. Dali was born in Figueres, and many Dali fans consider a trip to both the town and the museum somewhat of a pilgrimage. The museum is a two-hour drive from Barcelona’s city centre but makes for a great daytrip.
The Roman Baths - This is another great find just outside of Barcelona. Located in the quaint town of Gerona, about a one hour’s drive from Barcelona, the baths were built in the 12th century but are remarkably well preserved. The town of Gerona also has many worthy sights, including some stunning medieval architecture.
The Montserrat Monastery - Located 60 kilometres to the north of the city, is quite a popular site, especially with Christian devotees who tend to make a pilgrimage here every year. Famed for having been the site of many a miracle, the monastery is also a good place for exploring. With its multiple underground caves and secret mountain pathways, this is one exciting place of worship.